It’s time. There’s no denying it any longer.
Class rosters have been assembled and you may have even been given your teacher copy.
I went online a few days ago and saw pictures of my 2016-2017 students. Taken from last year’s school pictures they were all smiles.
It’s teacher work week.
What to do, where to start? For over a decade I’ve found myself anxious about the first week. As teachers we want students’ first day to be perfect.
Here are this year’s seven things to focus on with the time you have remaining before the first day’s school bell rings.
1. Get to know your students.
Seek out their files, close the door, and do some reading. I often spend too much time on whether my classroom walls express the right feeling and not enough on beginning to understand the students that will be walking into my room.
I always want the walls to say “I’m glad you’re here” and I want my desks arranged just so. I clean off my desks and chairs of their summertime dusting. Like a fool I am so enthralled by the looks of my room that I forgo learning about my soon-to-be students’ personalities, strengths and weaknesses.
So take some time to set aside the worry about your bulletin boards and learn about your students.
And as you finish reading how they have done in the past and you’ve taken some notes – erase, erase, erase. Erase what you’ll remember about what others have written because you really ought to give your students a chance to redo. Redo what didn’t go well in the past. Redo the year with a new teacher.
Having said all that, it doesn’t mean you should ignore the past, just be willing to
say believe it’s a brand new year with great possibilities ahead.
2. Think about what went well last year, and remember.
Do you remember what went well?
Too often we think about all the tension we experienced trying to get students to understand or when we were disappointed in ourselves in how the went.
You know though, that good things happened right? That every day you put a smile on a students face and you made them feel better about themselves.
- I remember the success I had with students.
- I remember them screaming to me from their buses as they left that last day.
- I remember their excitement as visitors came into my classroom.
- I am happy to report that it seems that I have survived my first year of teaching the 3rd grade – a transition from the 5th.
- I am happy that my schoolmares didn’t come true and my students’ scores on their state assessments were overall pretty good.
- I love the memory of a previous student coming to me on that Back to School day and her mom telling me how her daughter had spend all summer planning out her future as a result of a math bill paying lesson in which we discussed cars, college and houses. They were both all smiles greeting me at my door – makes me smile sitting here one whole year later.
3. Now think about what didn’t go so well last year, and correct.
For me this is easier to do.
- I remember the times that my lessons didn’t go as well as I scripted them.
- When I felt overwhelmed by the amount of instruction it seemed I hadn’t gotten to yet while looking at the calendar and seeing how few days remained.
- The amount of paperwork that kept coming at me from our aides who were doing an excellent job of providing copies of worksheets, yet I felt overwhelmed by when it was supposed to be taught and given – it was my first year teaching third.
- Where all that paperwork went as I tried to organize it in preparation for that week or that following week’s lessons.
- Feeling rushed to teach a lesson instead of listening to a story a student wanted to share – this one really bothers me.
- The times students go home telling half the story and there’s an entire other half of the story that wasn’t told which makes the student’s story far less concerning.
- When I’m critical of my own teaching and forget when things went exceptionally well.
How about you? Is it easier to remember when it didn’t go as planned?
4. Remember what made you happy last year.
- I loved it when my students made me laugh by telling me a story. I’m reminded of when I asked them to go home and do something nice, just because. The reactions from parents and siblings that they shared in class was wonderful.
- Cheese and Crackers – when I ask students to come to the front of the classroom, so we can get to know one another better. I ask them a few warm up questions like favorite questions or how many pets they own, and then students ask the student questions. Why it’s called Cheese and Crackers? I have no idea how that came about.
- When students trade in tickets they have earned for good behavior and they want to spend time with me eating lunch together with another friend. It’s always insightful and it’s almost always fun to hear their stories.
- One of my parent volunteers offered a bit of a water balloon contest driven by their success on the state assessments. I naturally included myself in the “bet”. Passing the test garnered one balloon, pass advanced gave them two and a perfect score earned them ten water balloons. At about twenty yards they were so excited about the prospect of nailing me with a water balloon they almost always missed me. I laughed. They laughed and screamed. I remained largely dry.
5. Do some lesson planning early on.
Every year I’m exhausted before my students ever set foot into my classroom. I’ve spent each day of teacher work week attempting to make things just so to find my lessons incomplete going into Labor Day Weekend.
This year my plans will be done before that week begins.
Current status? I’ve gone in a week early and already feeling better about changes I’m making to how my class looks and how I will change what didn’t go well last year.
6. Take a breath.
If this is your first year, your adventure is about to begin and you’ve done all you can to get ready. I still remember sitting in my first classroom at Pole Green Elementary and looking around at what would become the space in which I would teach. I was in awe that I would be in charge and I was overwhelmed that it was me that would be in charge.
If you are returning, then this is all something you’ve done many times in the past. Remember? Take the good memories and hold on to them tightly as the calm of summer begins to unravel. Remember the challenges and do something about trying to keep them from repeating.
As multiple principals have shared with me in the past, the #1 goal the first day is to get all your students back home safely that first day. Certainly an easy task with all the other objectives you have.
It’s supposed to be fun. Enjoy yourself a little and make your students’ day one in which they will remember well and be excited about returning to the next time they see you.
What about your reminders about preparing for the first days of school? I would love to hear them to add them to my own.